HOW DO I GET MY DOG TO COME TO ME?
by Karen J. Brittan

When our puppy is in the garden (unleashed) sometimes it is hard to make her go into the house. We call her and she runs playing (we DO NOT RUN after her). How can we improve the response?

You are quite correct in that you should NEVER chase after a dog that you want to come to you. They love a good game of tag! LOL If your dog/puppy should ever get away from you, and you are frantically trying to get it back, the best thing to do is to lay down on the ground with your head covered with your arms or to tap on the ground with your hand and make little whimpering noises. Most puppies LOVE this new game and it is one we play quite often here. They try to crawl under the arms to get to the buried face, generally licking like crazy and chewing on hair, but some try to nibble, so it is a good way to get in a correction for that by pinching the offender's lip. (As puppies get older, it often gets harder to find ways to try to get in the necessary reminders of proper manners.)

But I digress from your main question.... When you are feeding your puppy, rattle the kibble in the (metal) dish just before you put the food down so that the dog learns to associate feeding with the sound of the rattling kibble. I usually call "puppy, puppy, puppy" enthusiastically as I am doing this. Once the dog knows this ("puppy, puppy" and rattling kibbles), the next step is an easy one.

Randomly during the day, rattle a small bit of food in his bowl, call "Puppy, come" in a firm, but happy voice (SMILE at him!), and when the puppy comes running, expecting to be fed, give him one piece of kibble and tell him "WHAT A GOOD BOY" he is. Once he is coming well within the house, it is easy to begin doing this outside (to call him in).

When the dog is then coming reliably to "Puppy, come" and getting his treat, it is time to begin random reinforcement. This means that, although the food dish was rattled and the puppy called, initially in maybe one out of five recalls the puppy would not receive his treat, but instead would only be given verbal praise. Gradually give fewer and fewer treats, until you have reached the point where in maybe 5-6 recalls, the puppy only got the treat once. The food reward for coming should thereafter be totally random; the dog will never know WHICH recall will result in the treat, so he will hurry into the house each time thinking that maybe *this* will be the time that he will get the treat. (Ever play a slot machine? Same principle....)

If you plan to do something unpleasant to the dog, such as bathing or brushing, NEVER call the dog to you, but instead go and retrieve the dog. NEVER CORRECT IF YOU CALL THE DOG TO YOU!

And, yes, older dogs can learn to come reliably, too, with this method, as long as they enjoy eating.

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